Thursday, May 31, 2012

Old Gaffers Festival

One last Isle of Wight adventure….I think.

We chose to celebrate our last day on the island, along with the insanely great weather, at another celebration: the Old Gaffers Festival in Yarmouth.

The Crowd

Yarmouth is a port village and home to an annual festival celebrating Gaft Rig ships, or Gaffers.  The rich history of the festival was on display on pendants throughout the harbor.

Gaffers...everywhere

Yarmouth Festival

Although we only spent about three hours exploring, we could have easily lasted all day if we had the time.  

Music Tent

Guitar Rock

Between a revolving slate of live music, there were crafts, food and probably the most impressive cask beer setup I've ever seen.

Cask Heaven

For all of the times I've been to a non-beer festival and forced to choke down some fizzy lager, starring at 40 casks of real ale took my breath away.  

Cask, Cask & Cask

Not only were all of the local breweries represented, but several others I had not heard of.  With the Queen's Diamond Jubilee next week, several of the breweries even brought out special styles, just for her.

As the smallness of the island bears out, I even ran into Jay from the Village Inn, who was running the bar.  He provided us a great time at the Village Inn last week, which made it great to see him again.

Down the street

So, as we wandered the endless assortment of craft booths, antique cars and street side performers, we picked up a pint and  a cornish pasty.  I couldn't have been more pleased.

Pasty & PintPasty & Pie

In fact, I was so pleased, I'm still thinking about how good the damn thing was.

Although the pasty was the only thing I ate, the amount and types of food were staggering.  I wasn't eating, but I was still looking.

Sausages

There was definitely an international flare, with a number of different nationalities represented, each with a different take on "festival food".

Tartiflette

Although my heart is drawn to food and beer, I took in...everything.  Yes, the weather was perfect and I'm sure that played a roll, but the never ending feeling of "community" made an indelible impression.

Austin

The festival took over the town and as the time ticked by, the crowed continued to grow.  I can only imagine things as day turned into night and the festive continued to rock.

Up on the Deck

It was one of those days where everyone, no matter how geographically apart, feels connected.  We couldn't have asked for a better day…or, a better pint and pasty.

Old Gaffers Special

Gaffers

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Buddle Inn

Although safely back stateside, I've got a few more adventures from the Isle of Wight...

When I spoke with David Yates about finding a good pub serving his beer, he suggested The Buddle Inn.  So, armed with the Buddle as our destination, we arranged a hike through the "Back of the Wight" to preface our beer destination.

Pepper Pot to the Sea

We started of at St. Catherine's Oratory, or the Pepperpot as known by the locals, dating back to 1313 AD it is Britain's oldest medieval lighthouse.  It was built as penance for a man who stole wine.  Let that be a lesson to you.  

Zoë & Bob

From there, we walked to the current lighthouse at St. Catherine' s Point.  Built in 1837 it replaced the Pepperpot, in part due to the wreck of the Clarendon in the previous year.  

St. Catherine's Lighthouse

Although normally open for tours, sadly, the lighthouse was closed.  In order to make up for it, we walked the nearby fields and snacked on sandwiches while taking in its grounds.

Along the coast

After working up a fairly good thirst, not sustained by the bottles of water we brought, we finally stopped at The Buddle Inn.

Entrance to The Buddle

The Buddle is not only a local pub, it's a destination pub.  It is well out of the way.  Feat not though, as it is well worth the trip.  

The Buddle

With a spacious beer garden out front and a large compartmentalized dining area inside, the Buddle has tons of character.  

Fireplace

They also had Yates.  Just as David promised.

Pint of Yates

In fact, the real ale selection at the Buddle was one of the best I'd seen.

Real Ale

Fuller's, Yates, Goddard's, Island Brewery.  The Buddle had them all covered.

Arriving a little after 11, the place was still fairly empty.

Inside the Pub

For those who had sojourned out at the early hour, they were in the beer garden soaking up some rare English sun.  We followed their lead and certainly had no complaints as we polished off our drinks.

The Buddle Inn

The Buddle is a pretty amazing spot and what made our outdoor perch even better, was the beautiful view of the English Channel, just over the tree tops of the garden.  Definitely a destination pub, no matter what distance needs traveling.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Old Customs House

As a special treat to meet friends, we spent Friday across the Solent in Portsmouth.  With almost 1000 years of history, Portsmouth is most notably home to a large naval base and to some, more importantly, their football club, Pompey.  Although we always "pass through" Portsmouth, we never really spend a lot of time there.  This may have to change.  They have a lot going on.

Looking up

Amazingly, the weather has continued to be beautiful.  Seizing this rare moment of local perfection, I hitched a ride to the top of the Spinnaker Tower.  The Tower offers a breathtaking view of Portsmouth, the naval yard, the Solent and the north coast of the Isle of Wight.  On a clear day, you can see forever.

Towards IOWLooking past the Naval Shipyard

The observation tower's most interesting attraction was not out the observation windows.

Inside the Spinnaker

It was on the floor.

Looking Down

I'm standing on glass and yes, those hoofs are mine.  Scary, I know…the view was frightening too.  

Although it didn't cause me a lot of vertigo, it did provide a great source of amusement, as I watched others scurry across the glass.  Some were certainly more adventurous than others.

Observation Level

After leaving the tower, we checked out the HMS Warrior.

HMS Warrior

Although the Warrior isn't going anywhere, we found another working sail ship that was.

Working Ship

It's crew was making last minute preparations for a tug boat to pull them out to the harbor.  

Mast

After our sightseeing jaunt was over, we made our way to lunch at The Old Customs House.  Part of Portsmouth's harbor renovation was selling off part of the naval yard to make way for new commercial development.

Portsmouth

They did a nice job of blending old and new.  A channel leading to the harbor was lined with old world war relics -  mines, torpedoes, anti aircraft guns and to me, the most impressive sight: The Old Customs House.

The Old Customs House

Built in 1790, The Old Customs House originally served as the headquarters for the HMS Vernon and later the Commandant General Royal Marines.  The building screams history and inside, has been completely renovated.

In the House

The floor plan, as far as I could tell, seemed to be intact.  The entire pub is made up of different rooms.  Some only with tables and chairs.  Others with tables, chairs, leather couches and sofas.

Through the Doors

We grabbed a sofa near a window and I slid over to the bar to grab a pint while we waited on our friends.

Out the Window

The Old Customs House is "tied" to Fullers.  So I had a nice opportunity to try a special style brewed for the Queen's Jubilee next weekend, Hope and Glory Jubilee Ale.  

Pint & Lunch

Later on for lunch, I had a Fuller's Discovery.

Fullers

I've had Discovery at home, but when you compare bottle to cask, there is no comparison.  No gas, just naturally carbonated fresh clean beer.  

Speaking of lunch, the menu was quite expansive. This always gives me trouble.  Too many choices can kill me.

The Old Customs House

As with most pubs, we placed our food order at the bar and then went outside with our friends to enjoy lunch under the wonderfully warm sun.

Pub Sign

For food, I ended up turning toward standard pub fare with the sausage and mash.

Sausage & Mash

Zoë had the bacon, cranberry and brie sandwich.  Although I wasn't allowed any of the sandwich, I did snag some cole slaw.

Brie, Cranberry & Bacon

Finally, my regret. I should have gotten Keith's sausage platter.

Sausage Platter

Five sausages were served on a board with various mustards and chutneys.  Yes, it was meant to be shared, but I'm fairly certain I could have eaten it all myself…if I had ordered it.

The Old Customs House

The Old Customs House was great on all counts: ambiance, food and beer.  It served as a great location to catch up with friends we so rarely get to see.  We really couldn't have asked for a better time.  I believe in the future we are going to do more than simply "pass through" Portsmouth.

Wightlink Cat